“One Team, Endless Dreams” Opening Day Activity

Collaboration, creativity, Culture Building, Growth Mindset, Motivation

Inspired by Daniel Pink’s What’s Your Sentence video and activity I had completed as an MAET student, we created an activity for our opening day keynote. We asked our staff to reflect upon the unique talents that they each bring to the team that make us strong and successful.

Then we sent our staff off to create their individual sentences. Many of our staff members hung them on the walls of their classrooms and offices as a reminder of why they are here and how they want to be remembered. At the end of the year, we shared with the staff this video and asked them to reflect upon how they had lived up to that sentence or how that sentence had changed for them over the course of the past school year.




Maker Camp: Diving In

creativity, Failure, innovation, Maker Camp, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, Motivation, STEM

So let’s begin this first post on Maker Camp with a camp tradition:

The spooky campfire ghost story.

One day, two crazy educators bravely decided to host something called Maker Camp with only two weeks notice. So they cautiously entered into the abandoned school (Ok, it was summertime. But if you’ve ever been in school after hours by yourself, you know what I mean- it’s enough to give you the goosebumps). They entered with no budget, a cry for volunteer help, over 100 students and families registered and the hopes and dreams of inspiring and encouraging creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking in students, staff and the greater community.

To see how this story ends, follow my posts about our Maker Camp experience. These posts are written reflectively quite a bit later than I would have preferred but better to reflect late than never.

Still fresh and new in my role as a Technology Integration Specialist with my district, I was looking for a way to use the summer to continue to build relationships and bring awareness to technology integration and instructional design to our staff, students and community. Cue my colleague, Beth, whose mutual interest and passion for the Maker movement and its impact on education became our initial bond. We began looking for ways to introduce making and the Maker movement to our students, staff and community. But of course this was about more than just the Maker Movement. Our district, as are many others, is working hard to shift towards more project based learning and active learning pedagogies along with technology integration. The 2016 Horizon report identifies accelerating trends in technology adoption in education and Maker Spaces, a shift to deeper learning approaches like project based learning, a shift from students as consumers to creators and a rise in STEAM learning as key trends and important developments in K-12 and higher education within the next 1-5 years.

In my
experience though, systematic change is often slow-moving and complex. Transformations in pedagogy like that don’t happen overnight. Which is frustrating for someone who is passionate about instructional design and technology. I just want to jump into classrooms and shout LET’S DO THIS!”. But it was important for me to pause and recognize that successful change is about feeling and not about thinking. I can tell teachers about the Maker Movement and get them thinking about how it could impact their classrooms, but that will never live up to them seeing that student that they have been struggling to engage all year suddenly engaged and enthusiastic and creating SOMETHING. That’s feeling and that is why we do what we do in the end. And that is what gives us the motivation to change.

“The deepest problem for us is not technology, not teaching, nor school bureaucracies, it’s the limits of our own thinking.” – Sylvia Libow Martinez


CEP 813: Annotated Assessment/Evaluation Exemplar

Assessment, Collaboration, creativity, Learning Theory, MAET Year 3, Tech Integration

Assessment of Student Perceptions of 21st Century Learning

K-1Next-GenStudentSurvey-February2015-page-001The assessment that I have chosen to analyze was designed for Kindergarten and first grade students to self-assess their learning and learning environment in Saline Area Schools Next Generation classrooms. The Next Generation classrooms utilize 1:1 technology, flexible learning spaces and emphasize effective pedagogy with the development of 21st century skills. The assessment was designed and developed with feedback from the Next Generation classroom teachers, the Instructional Technology Director and myself. This assessment is a series of statements that were read aloud to students while they had a paper copy in front of them. They had to circle the smiley face if they thought that the statement applied to them most of the time, the straight line face if they thought that it sometimes applied to them and the sad face if they felt that the statement never applied to them. The assessment was anonymous in order to promote honesty and objectivity but which classroom each assessment hailed from was identified. The assessment was intended to be administered both mid-year and end of year.


Purpose and Alignment to Professional Standards

The purpose of this assessment was to provide feedback to the Instructional Technology Director, teachers, students and the district about how Next Generation classrooms are incorporating 21st century skills particularly creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Standardized assessments do not measure the soft skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication but we know that their development is crucial for students to be successful in the workplace and can potentially have impact on student achievement. In analyzing the data received from this learning environments assessment combined with data from standardized assessments, we could begin to present evidence of their impact on student achievement. It also was designed to allow students to reflect on their learning experiences in the unique learning setting and how it has impacted them as a student this year.

The assessment aligns with the ISTE Standards for Students and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s Framework for 21st Century Learning. The goal was to measure students’ perceptions of their opportunities to be creative, critically think, communicate, collaborate, the impact of their flexible learning environment and access to technology for learning. Because the assessment was anonymous, the results will provide feedback on class-wide and program-wide student perceptions on the impact of certain activities on their learning. The way the assessment is currently administered does not provide specific results for each student.

Intended Use

The assessment is formative in nature as “evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet student needs” (Black and Wiliam, 1998, p. 140). The data is compiled and analyzed and the Next Generation teachers meet individually with the Instructional Technology Director to discuss the results. The student data from this soft skills perception assessment is combined with standardized assessment student data to determine correlations particularly in analyzing achievement gaps and student growth. The discussion consists of reflection about positive correlations and highlights things that the teacher is doing well as evident in both sets of data and also addresses areas of improvement and what adjustments and changes that teacher might make to their learning environment and/or instruction to address those areas. The assessment is again administered at the end of the school year and the process is repeated. The information from this assessment combined with the other assessments created for the other grade levels of Next Generation classrooms and the standardized assessment data was also used to inform the Instructional Technology Director about current trends, areas of improvement and correlations between soft skills and academic achievement that are evidential support and data visualization for furthering the efforts of Next Generation programming within the district.

Assumptions Embedded within Assessment

In administering this assessment, we assumed that all students understood the prompts when they were read aloud and could match the written numbers with the spoken number prompt. We also assumed that students clearly understood the meaning of the smiley face, straight face and sad face and what they represented when they selected each. We assumed they could physically circle the response they chose. We assumed that each student would be honest when responding to the prompts. We also assumed that students would not be influenced by peers, the teacher or the assessment administrator when responding to the prompts. Finally, we assumed that this was an appropriate amount of prompts to gain enough information within an appropriate time-frame that did not extend past the attention span of the students.

Potential Challenges

This assessment could prove difficult for struggling readers as the students needed to have at the very least an ability to correlate what number was said to what was written on the paper. The assessment could definitely be challenging for ELL students as the prompts were written for a general education audience and did not include any picture supporting prompts to help with unfamiliar vocabulary in the statement portion. The smiley faces may also potentially be confusing to an ELL student as the cultural connotations may vary. This assessment also proved difficult for students because it was survey and responses were to be based on opinion and the students struggled with the idea that there was not a right and a wrong answer.

Implications for Assessment Re-design

This assessment echoes some of Lorrie Shepard’s suggested strategies for developing informative and useful assessments (2000, p. 10). It is on-going and administered at multiple points throughout the year, although it could also be administered at the beginning of the school year as a baseline and to provide transparency and set clear expectations for both teachers and students. This assessment provides insight into student perceptions that are used to provide feedback for the teacher. I think that in doing that we are gaining valuable information but we are also potentially overlooking the teacher’s perspective and prior knowledge. If the teacher identifies that they believe that they are really strong at allowing students to use technology to show what they know but the student responses show the opposite perception, being able to see and connect that data has the potential to lead to a more meaningful discussion and reflection on what the underlying cause of that is. A potential improvement could be to create a matching assessment that is designed to gauge teacher perceptions of their own teaching of this material. Currently, we are providing a self-assessment for students but not creating that same self-assessment piece for teachers.


Black, P. & Williams, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessments. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144.

Casner-Lotto, J., & Barrington, L. (2006). Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century US Workforce. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 1 Massachusetts Avenue NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2015). Standards for Students . Retrieved 31 May 2015, from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2015). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. Retrieved 31 May 2015, from http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework

Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14.

Stimulating Creativity in a Maker Space

Collaboration, creativity, innovation, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, STEM


Our first Next Generation Classrooms teacher professional development of the year was focused on creativity. These teachers have one to one iPads in their classrooms, flexible learning spaces including multiple collaborative work spaces and focus on including 21st century skills as part of their curriculum.

Through my work in the MAET program at MSU, I have grown an interest in the Maker Movement and its implications in education. We were offered an opportunity to work on a 20% time project as part of our work in Saline so I have chosen to work on creating a Maker Space in our fourth and fifth grade building. In order to prepare for that project, I toured a Maker Space operating in Ann Arbor called Maker Works. I thought it was an inspiring space with tools that made you really think about all of the elements that go into creating a product.

Our director of tech toured the space shortly after and loved the idea of holding our Next Gen training there! The rest of the design was up to the Maker Works team and they did a fantastic job designing a fun, engaging and out of the box creative experience for our teachers.

IMG_1498The teachers first got a tour of the facility which is much bigger than it appears! They toured the circuitry room, the collaboration room, the woodworking shop, the metalworking shop and the crafting room. The group learned a little about the company and the space and its emphasis on providing a space for anyone to come and make. They talked a lot about the awesome collaboration amongst all ages that they see there as people learn and help each other with creative projects.

Then, the teachers were introduced to their creative challenge. The teachers had to save the world by creating a superhero identity. They designed a superpower and superhero name. They designed an emblem to go with that superhero and gave the superhero a back story.


Assisted by a Maker Works helper, the teachers transformed their sketched emblem designs into CorelDraw on the computer. The designs then were sent to a vinyl cutter which our superintendent and assistant superintendent of curriculum helped to set up! The teachers printed and then cut out their vinyl design, placed them on a t-shirt and then heat pressed them onto the t-shirt. Pretty awesome!


From there, teachers used the laser cutter to cut superhero masks and then decorate using an assortment of materials. The teachers could then cut and sew a cape to attach to their t-shirt.


Our tech director also put together an awesome creativity stimulator for these teachers that they were given the night before the training. What a great way to get them in the mood for some training! She included some purposeful items like vanilla coffee as vanilla is a proven creativity booster. She included Sir Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds– which I am now currently reading!IMG_1470IMG_1473We ran out of time to reflect as a group on our experience but followed up with an e-mail with some ideas to self-reflect on their creative experience. We also included the K-2, 3-6 and 7-12 creativity rubrics that we want teachers to start incorporating with their students to better evaluate the creativity skills that their students are gaining in their experience as a Next Generation student.

Three Little Pigs Creativity Project- Kindergarten & First Grade

creativity, innovation, MakerEd, STEM, Tech Integration, TPACK

Beginning with the framework that we used with fourth grade, we created a simplified and shortened version of the creativity project to use with our kindergarten and first grade Next Generation classrooms.

We did a quick think-pair-share retelling of the traditional Three Little Pigs story.

Then, we read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and talked about similarities and differences in the two versions of the story.

We discussed the strategies the three little pigs used to keep the pig out and then revealed their challenge. The students needed to design a house that would stand up to the big bad wolf. IMG_1355

Within the time constraints of an hour, we had students go through a brainstorming process and create a design either on paper or their iPads. Working collaboratively to create one unified design was more challenging for this group of younger students compared to fourth grade but after some questioning they developed strategies for creating a design. One group had everyone create their own design and then shared them and picked the best one. Another group took parts of everyone’s design to create one design. This was probably the most time consuming part.


After their design was approved, the groups were given their materials to start building. We did give different materials to this group and gave them a base to put their structure on to help them develop sturdier structures.



It was extremely interesting to see how the different groups created their structures. Some groups were very detail oriented- worried about chandeliers, signs, furniture and a yard. Other groups tested their structure by all blowing towards the structure at the same time to see if it would stay up.


After about 20 minutes of work on their structure, we had each group come up and present their structure and tell us about why they did what they did. They had some well thought out reasoning! We then had the Big Bad Hairdryer come out and test the design to see if it would withstand the huff and puff.


Finally, we self-reflected as a group using the K-2 BIE Creativity Rubric.




Three Little Pigs Engineering Design and Creativity Project

creativity, innovation, MakerEd, STEM, Tech Integration, TPACK

After our Creativity and Innovation professional development (Next Gen Teacher Academy) training, the tech team pushed into Next Generation classrooms before Winter Break to tackle some creativity projects.

In designing this creativity project learning experience, I used TPACK to create the most effective learning experience.

Pedagogy: First, I considered the pedagogy that would help stimulate and develop creativity. In project or problem based learning, students are solving a complex question or problem that does not necessarily have one correct answer so it really lends itself to thinking creatively to solve problems. It was important to consider other best practices such as Backwards Design, UDL, differentiation, scaffolding and inquiry based learning and they seemed to complement a project based learning approach to the creativity project.

Content: Next, I considered the content that would frame the creativity project. We pushed into Kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade classes for our creativity project so we needed content that could be adapted to be applicable to all grade levels. Making interdisciplinary connections, I settled on a STEM and literature project. I worked backwards to design essential questions for a fourth grade creativity project.

Big Questions: What is the Engineering Design Process?

How can you design a solution to a problem?

What strategies does a write use to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes?

How do folktales provide insight into other cultures and teach us lessons for our daily lives?

Objective: Students will engage in the steps of the creative process including defining the creative challenge, identify sources of information, idea generation and refinement, openness and courage to explore, working creatively with others, creative production and innovation and self-reflection.

Context: Next, I considered the context. We are pushing into Next Generation classrooms which have one to one iPads and flexible learning spaces. We also wanted to design a lesson that would adaptable to several grade levels.

Technology: Finally, after considering all of the above did I start to think about the ways in which technology could enhance the creativity lesson. The technology used for this lesson needed to provide a tool for collaboration, for publishing and sharing and also for engagement and creation.

The Three Little Pigs Engineering Creativity Project

Hook: To quickly engage students, we told them a little about how they would be using some engineering skills combined with a story they would be familiar with but that they would have to use some creativity as well. We showed The Three Little Pigs advertisement from The Guardian & discussed the different points of view within the video.

Retelling: We then moved into a retelling of the traditional Three Little Pigs story through a Think, Pair, Share. We found that there was some confusion so decided to just read the original folk tale aloud to clear up any misconceptions.

Then, we read aloud The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, the version of the story told from the point of view of the wolf.


Compare and Contrast: We asked students to think about the different points of view found in the three different versions of the same story and had them discuss with partners. We then had them create Venn Diagrams on their iPads.

On Day 2 of the creativity project, we began to shift our thinking towards engineering and how that played a role in this story.IMG_1414

Ask (Define the Creative Challenge): Students were shared a Google Doc to begin to explore engineering and what an engineer does. They were provided with this What is Engineering? ThingLink to help them start to define their creative challenge.

Here is what the Google Doc looked like with the red text being the student feedback summarized:

We had a fantastic discussion while sharing out what we had learned during our exploration time.

Driving Question: We wrapped up this discussion on engineering by asking the students “If we were engineers designing a house, what is the potential real world problem we would be trying to solve in our design?”.

Students determined that they were trying to design a structure that could withstand strong winds from hurricanes or tornadoes and thus designed their driving question for this project.

Imagine & Plan (Identify Sources of Information/ Idea Generation & Refinement):

Now we introduced the groups and materials to the students. Each group had a bag of materials that they were able to use to create their structure. They were also provided with a ThingLink with resources  on wind power, architecture & engineering that they could explore if they chose.

Groups had to brainstorm and create a general design either on paper or iPad and be able to explain it to one of the teachers in the room. If the design was approved, the group received their building materials and could begin building their structure. If their design was not approved, they had to make changes using the teacher’s suggestions before the group could begin.


Create (Creative Production & Innovation, Working Creatively with Others, Openness & Courage to Explore):

Students worked very hard creating their house the first day.

However, on day two of building we introduced some constraints in order to really stimulate some creativity and create some roadblocks that had to be overcome. First, we introduced the Pig Depot. Each group now had a budget and had to purchase the supplies that it was using to create their house from the Pig Depot adding some layers of math that had to be considered.


When the groups were reading, they   could test their structure using the Big Bad Hairdryer. If their structure did not stand up to the Big Bad hairdryer, they needed to make improvements.


Finally, we introduced the bigger badder fan that students had two chances to try and get their structure to stand up to.


 Self-Reflection: After all groups had tested twice on the bigger badder fan, they had to reflect as a group and individually using the Saline Area Schools creativity rubric that incorporates the Buck Institute for Education Project Based Learning Creativity Rubrics and the EdLeader21 Creativity Rubrics. Each group presented their house design, whether or not it stood up to the bigger badder fan, their successes and failures throughout the process, what they would do differently and how they worked as a team.

The feedback that I got from the fourth grade teachers was that they were really excited about how the project engaged and hooked some of their normally disengaged students and how the students seemed to gain a recognition of how valuable collaboration was for solving a complex problem. The students made tons of cross-curricular connections and all developed unique structures with supporting rationale. We then took this activity and adapted it for our Kindergarten and first grade classrooms.

Creativity & Innovation in the Classroom

creativity, innovation

We just recently completed my first larger group ed tech professional development session called Next-Gen Teacher Academy in Saline. These sessions are designed for teachers who are interested in Next-Gen classrooms and might be interested in being a Next-Gen teacher in the future.  In developing our Next Generation Teacher Academy professional development sessions, we focused on really diving into 21st century skills and supporting pedagogy rather than your run of the mill tech tool based trainings. We want our teachers to reap the benefits of going deeper into technology integration. Our first training focused on creativity and innovation with a driving question of:

How do we foster creativity and innovation in our Next-Gen classrooms?

I discovered a gem of a video about thinking outside the box and it reminded me so much of the way our students’ ideas sometimes flow out. We decided to share this video out before the training as a way to get participants thinking about what creativity really looks like.

Through combining the EdLeader21 Creativity and Innovation Rubric with the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) Project Based Learning Creativity rubric, we were able to develop a great way to measure and evaluate creativity and innovation through the steps of the creative process in the classroom. We decided the most effective way to help educators to understand this rubric would be to experience the creative process and then reflect on what they did. We developed a creativity exercise on building a better bicycle and included the key steps of identifying the problem, gathering information, idea generation and refinement, creative production and self-reflection.

Here is the resource that we developed on creativity and innovation.

The fantastic thing about this training was that through the mix of tools (iPads, play dough, laptops, markers and paper) that we made available, tech savvy educators and tech fearful educators were able to feel confident in their ability to foster creativity and innovation in their classrooms.

Our participants gave positive feedback on the training and loved the way that they were able to be introduced to the Creativity & Innovation rubric through experiencing it.

I am looking forward to our next Next-Gen Teacher Academy training focused on fostering collaboration!